Creature-catching games have never been more popular. While they never truly disappear entirely, thanks to the enduring popularity of Pokémon, there are undoubtedly many more options around today for those of us who like to collect unique and adorable creatures. With Palworld racking up 4 million sales in its first weekend, I think it’s time to shine a light on some alternative games that feature beastly buddy collecting.
The most Pokémon like of all the Pokémon like games I’ve played, Nexomon from Ratalaika Games has several games in the series, with Extinction being the most well-known. The story and gameplay are familiar, with over 300 Nexomon to catch with varying rarity. You are a young kid set out on an adventure from the orphanage you grew up in. Travel the world, help the Trainers Guild by defeating Tyrant Nexomon, and work to become the best. Extinction boasts simpler gameplay with no Nexomon types, creating easier battles. This one is a good entry-level for youngsters who love Pokémon but find type matching difficult.
Best described as an MMORPG Pokémon, Temtem from Crema features creatures, an open world, and co-op play. There are six islands to explore online, with 164 Temtem currently available to catch in the game. While you can play the game as a single-player experience, this one is more geared toward a multiplayer experience. A story campaign echoes the typical Pokemon adventure where you explore the world and defeat dojos and a co-op mode to adventure with a friend. The Temtems have cute and interesting designs, and they’re a good alternative to the somewhat glitchy online play Pokemon Scarlet and Violet provides.
In a change from the usual creature catcher format, Abomi Nation from Orange Pylon Games is a roguelike experience. Each run-through creates a new land with different beasts to encounter and catch. The more runs you play, the more you unlock, and the game also features many customization options. Want to have an absolute nightmare run? You can do that. Want your Abomis to risk permadeath in battle? You can do that too. There are over 170 Abomis to catch, each with fun designs, and there’s a lot of replayability. The art style is simple but cute, and the roguelike elements make it stand out from the usual suspects.
Coromon from TRAGsoft blends creature-catching, adventure, and some puzzles together to create a game in the vein of retro Pokémon but with much more customization. As a new Battle Researcher, your new career is rudely interrupted by an attack on your headquarters, leading you to a path of adventure and Coromon catching. There are over 100 Coromon to catch, and this game has an interesting feature that many catch-them-all games don’t have: customization. You can change the color of your beasts, and you also have a highly customizable character. The game also features online play so you can challenge your friends and a highly customizable range of difficulty settings.
One of the original creature collecting games at over 20 years old, Monster Rancher from Koei Tecmo, has you training and fighting various monsters. Your quest is to become the greatest breeder of all time, a phrase sure to be the tagline for a TLC show in the next few years. Raise your monsters on your ranch, upgrade them through adventures, and battle in competitions across the land to earn rewards and prestige. Pokemon definitely overshadowed Monster Rancher, but the original two games were recently remastered for PC and Nintendo Switch. There was also an Ultraman and Monster Rancher fusion game where you raised many of the different kaiju from the show to battle. It was one of my favorite games of 2022.
Slime Rancher 1 & 2
Monomi Park’s Slime Rancher came out of nowhere in 2017 and became a huge hit. Part exploration, part farming, and all slime catching, the game hit upon a winning formula with its adorable and vibrant art design. You play as Beatrice, a rancher far out from Earth, establishing and exploring the Far Far Range. There are many different biomes and resources to uncover and various slimes to collect. These adorable blobs range from peaceful vegetarian Honey Slimes to antagonistic carnivores Hunter Slimes. Set up your ranch, create pens for slimes, farm resources, and sell the slime’s plorts (poop) for cold hard cash. The sequel is also in early access with a new location, new slimes, and lots more incoming content.
From developers Glumberland, Ooblets is anything but glum. Set in the strange land of Oob, you are a new resident on a ramshackle farm. The town is vibrant, filled with delightful weirdos, strange places, and, most importantly, odd little beasts called Ooblets. The thing that puts Ooblets in its own league is the mixture of farming, narrative, and the unique catching mechanic. To get a new Ooblet friend, you have to challenge them to a dance battle, and if you win, they will give you a seed to grow a freaky little guy.
This open-world RPG from Bytten Studios features unique creatures and catching mechanics, a darker tone, and a mysterious story. You play as someone who has woken up in a mysterious land without knowing how you got there. As the game unfolds, you learn that everyone in the land arrived the same way you did, and all seem to be from different periods. Not long after arriving, you are given a cassette tape Walkman and told that you can catch the weird creatures that inhabit the world by battling them and recording their data onto cassettes. You can create new monsters by fusing them, and by catching some of them, you even gain abilities like wings that aid your exploration. The beasts are weird, sometimes verging on scary, and the designs are extremely original.
One of my favorite games of last year, Moonstone Island from Studio Supersoft, has you play as a shiny new alchemist on the titular island. As well as setting up your alchemist home, growing crops, and brewing potions, there are also Spirits to collect. Moonstone Island is surrounded by 100-plus islands that you can travel to where you can find Spirits of different types, temples, and dungeons to face. There is also the matter of Magic Man Waldo, whose mind has been shattered and is somehow linked to a dark rift threatening the world. While there are currently less than 100 spirits to tame, the team is adding more creatures and content all the time, all of which are unique and bizarre.
NI No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
A collaboration between Square Enix and Studio Ghibli, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is tied with Double Fine’s Psychonauts for my favorite game of all time. A sprawling adventure filled with poignancy and beauty, the game also features various catchable Familiars. You play as Oliver, a young boy who loses his mother and is whisked away to a magical land by his stuffed doll, Mr. Drippy, who has come to life. Oliver begins his path to becoming a wizard and defeating the evil Shadar. A large part of this process is acquiring Familiars. Once you catch them, they often have a branching evolutionary path that you can influence. The variety of the creatures is vast, unique, and beautiful, and the world is stunning to wander through.